Dakar: Team Repsol stage seven report

MIXED FORTUNES FOR REPSOL RIDERS AND DRIVERS AT THE ATAR REST DAY Frenchman Peterhansel beats Sainz and moves up to third overall. Nani Roma rolls his Mitsubishi and is still on the track with the assistances track trying to repair. In the ...

MIXED FORTUNES FOR REPSOL RIDERS AND DRIVERS AT THE ATAR REST DAY

Frenchman Peterhansel beats Sainz and moves up to third overall. Nani Roma rolls his Mitsubishi and is still on the track with the assistances track trying to repair. In the motorbike class, withdrawal of Jordi Viladoms after a crash, Giovanni Sala fourth fastest and Marc Coma sixth Mixed fortunes for Repsol riders and drivers today at the Lisbon Dakar Rally. The entrance in Mauritania brought yesterday the first Dakar stage victory for Jordi Viladoms, but today the same protagonist had to see how his situation radically changed after a crash. After the first refuelling, Viladoms started behind team mate Marc Coma and Isidre Esteve. In an area in which no danger had been marked on the road book and while riding behind the two other riders, Viladoms hit a stone which was hidden in the sand and was thrown off his bike. Viladoms suffered several fractures in the crash and was assisted by the doctors of the organization, first on site and then at the bivouac located in Atar. The Repsol rider has fractured his left elbow and the scaphoid bone of his left wrist; fractures in two fingers of his right hand and a further fracture in his right ankle which he has also dislocated. The medical services of the Organization reduced the injury in his right ankle and immobilized the rest of the affected areas. This afternoon, at 20.00 local time, Viladoms will be taken to the University Hospital Dr. Negrin in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. In 24 or 48 hours, after having him under observation, he will be taken to Barcelona. Viladoms, who did not loose conscience at any time, hopes to be back in Barcelona soon to have his injuries operated. The rest of the Team Repsol KTM riders had an incident-free day, despite Marc Coma and Giovanni Sala feeling very sorry for what had happened to their team mate. Sala was fourth today and made a big jump in the overall standings, to the sixth place. Coma, sixth fastest today is still leading the overall standings with an advantage of a bit over 10 minutes over second classified, Isidre Esteve

In the car class, twice former Dakar Rally winners Stephane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret and defending champions Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard moved up to third and fourth overall in the 29th Dakar Rally, after the shortened seventh special stage that wound its way between Zouerat and Atar in Mauritania. Today's stage was shortened for safety reasons by event organizers. A fierce sandstorm was blowing at the second passage control at the 439km point and helicopters were unable to fly in such conditions. Therefore, ASO officials cancelled the last 134km of the special stage and the timed section finished at the 407.6km point, thereby reducing the competitive distance by some 134 km.

Peterhansel and Cottret began the day fifth on the road and quickly joined the leading pack. At the 188km point they were running alongside Carlos Sainz, Giniel De Villiers and Robbie Gordon, although Jean-Louis Schlesser had been forced to stop for several minutes with technical problems. Peterhansel was fastest at the first 216km passage control and eventually finished the stage in second position, after a puncture and delays in soft sand. He duly moved up to third in the overall rankings and unofficially trails new overall leader Giniel De Villiers by 24m 38s and second-placed Carlos Sainz by 22m 59s. Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard began the stage in eighth position and were fourth through the first passage control. They eventually finished the stage in sixth place and climbed to fourth in the general classification, their cause helped when Portugal's Carlos Sousa lost time in the sand dunes. Hiroshi Masuoka and Pascal Maimon had set the 23rd fastest time into Zouerat, after stopping to change the clutch and were 21st into the stage this morning. But they were running as the sixth fastest car through PC1 and eventually completed the shortened stage in an excellent fourth overall to give them a good starting position when the event resumes to Tichit on Sunday.

Joan 'Nani' Roma and Lucas Cruz were 14th into the second Mauritanian stage and held eighth at PC1. But the Spaniard rolled his Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution in sand dunes at the 295km point, 112km from the stage finish. Neither team member was injured in the incident, but the roll cost Roma his place on the top 10 leaderboard.

Tomorrow (Saturday) is the traditional rest day on the Dakar Rally. Several hundred VIPs arrived at the remote tarmac airstrip in Atar to witness the action, although poor weather had closed in on Friday and strong winds were shifting dust and sand around the airport area for much of the day. The rest day was also an opportunity for Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart to receive open arms fresh mechanics and team representatives to the event.

Quotes

Jordi Viladoms
"I was riding behind Marc (Coma) and Isidre (Esteve) and we almost reached the first refuelling together. It was a comfortable pace and everything went perfect. The Organization had already warned us during the briefing yesterday evening, that there were a lot of hidden stones in the sand in one section of the route, which was exactly the section after the refuelling. And that's exactly what happened to me; I was riding comfortably behind them after the refuelling and then I suddenly hit a hidden stone, in an area where the road book did not mark any danger and despite standing on the footrest to try to recover the balance, I just couldn't and I ended up on the ground. It was a heavy fall and I immediately noticed that I had hurt myself. I'm sorry for the team, because I won't be able to contribute with my work anymore for the rest of the Dakar. I really hope that everything keeps on working as it has been so far and to have another reason for joy in Dakar."

Marc Coma
"It's been a very difficult stage, not only as regards navigation; the weather conditions were not of much help either, because there was a heavy sand storm and visibility was almost null. Opening the track is very tiring and it became complicated, because the rider gets especially tired with this weather and it is easy to make navigation mistakes. The most important is that we've reached Atar. Tomorrow we'll have the rest day. Our aim was to arrive here in the leading group and that's what we've done. What happened to Jordi Viladoms is a big shame, a strong blow for the team, but at least it's nothing serious and I wish him a quick recovery. The first kilometres after refuelling are always complicated because our tanks are filled, the bike reacts slower and although we were not riding too fast, such things happen. Until the refuelling Isidre (Esteve) and I were switching places in the lead. When any of us had a small problem the other would take over and the pace hasn't been too high. The rest day is always a bit of a contradiction because even if you are looking forward to it, right now I would like to move on, because it also breaks somehow the rhythm. But, well, it will also be good for the machines and the mechanics will be able to work with ease, because they've had little time and were always in a hurry these days. I'll try to relax; there must be reason for a rest day to be included."

Giovanni Sala
"I'm happy with my result but sad after what happened to Jordi Viladoms. What happened to him is a shame. Yesterday he won his first stage in the Dakar and today he ended up in a helicopter on the way to the hospital. Fortunately he has no serious injuries and Jordi will be back racing in a few months. I really hope he gets well soon. As regards the sporting aspect I'm satisfied because I finished the special well today and I'm in a good position to help Marc if necessary. The stage has been hard but very beautiful. Tomorrow we'll have a rest day to get strength back and continue to Dakar."

Stephane Peterhansel
"This morning I thought that the stage would be harder. Normally this kind of stage has soft sand and dunes, but today we only had a few dunes. It was soft but not too long. We tried to follow the line of the motorbikes. It is important to keep the concentration and follow the correct line. Near the end I got stuck in the sand at the very last dune. We tried to pass with high tire pressure, but it was not easy. We lost about 10 minutes and then, just before the end of the stage, we had a puncture and had to stop and change the wheel and inflate the tires. This morning we were fifth and now we are third, but the difference between us and the leaders is still much the same, so we have it all to do next week."

Luc Alphand
"Again it was a frustrating day for us. Nothing really that clean and we got stuck twice. We were on the same pace as the others when we got stuck the first time. That was not a problem, because we deflated the tires, but then we got stuck again. It was really soft and was purely a case of taking a wrong decision. It's so frustrating when you have to stop, get out of the car, get the sand plates out and free the car. It all costs valuable time -- seven minutes wasted -- and then we had to stop again to inflate the tires. But, we are here and will continue to do our best next week."

Hiroshi Masuoka
"We started this morning as the 23rd car. It was very difficult to drive in a series of sand storms. In some places the visibility was down to 30 metres. It was a wall of sand. I did not see too many cars. Pascal did a great job on the navigation. I was about to enter the sand dunes and I realised it would have been impossible to get through, so we turned around and deflated the tires. It was a good decision, because we had a clean run through the dunes."

Dominque Serieys (Sports Director MMSP)
"Obviously safety is paramount on this rally and we must respect the decision of the organizers to shorten the stage. Stephane and Hiroshi drove a very good stage today and that puts Hiroshi in a good position to start the next stage on Sunday. Luc is also in contention and we now have third and fourth places. At the beginning of the rally, we had a team chat and the target was top five and around 20 minutes behind the leaders at this stage. We will push ever harder now and apply more pressure on the leaders. It appears that 'Nani' had a slow roll in the sand dunes. Neither of the crew were injured and the car is back on its wheels, but there appears to be a problem starting the engine and they are waiting for the assistance truck. We will rebuild the cars in Atar, as per our service schedule, but we must also try and find out why we had clutch problems. This has not happened before on these cars."

-credit: repsol

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Carlos Sainz , Luc Alphand , Jean-Louis Schlesser , Hiroshi Masuoka , Stéphane Peterhansel , Jean-Paul Cottret , Gilles Picard , Carlos Sousa , Pascal Maimon , Giovanni Sala , Nani Roma , Marc Coma , Jordi Viladoms , Lucas Cruz